Anymore, there are few things that shock me. With the advent of the internet, you can see anything at anytime. That’s why when I saw the following headline, I wasn’t all shocked…
The title is from an article authored by Doug Harris of The Dayton Daily News. He authored this after the U.S. Women’s Open. Some believe the lack of American stars on the LPGA is a factor as to why the tour is/has/was (take you pick on verb tense) struggling. It may play a part. Lack of a dominant American player tends to steer American viewers away from watching a tournament. The last three dominant players on the LPGA have been Yani Tseng of Chinese Taipei (who happens to be in a bit of a slump), Lorena Ochoa from Mexico and Annika Sorenstam from Sweden.
I didn’t notice a drop in interest that much with Annika. Or even Ochoa for that matter. Tseng seems to have a big following. Maybe that’s not the case.
It has been a some time since an American woman held a firm grasp over the rest of the LPGA. It’s a point that cannot be debated.
Harris makes a point that there are only four Americans in the top 20 in the Rolex Rankings. Actually, there are five: Stacy Lewis (#3), Cristie Kerr (#9), Paula Creamer (#13), Brittany Lincicome (#15), and Angela Stanford (#18).
I will say that if you’re merely looking at the rankings for American stars, you’re missing the boat here.
Who’s ranked #22? That would be Lexi Thompson. She was actually a star before turning pro. Despite her 2012 struggles and 40th ranking, Michelle Wie remians a big draw at LPGA tournaments. Brittany Lang, who won only three weeks ago, is 25th. Jessica Korda has won an LPGA event this year, too. You also have budding stars in Vicky Hurst (who is featured on the LPGA website) and, in my opinion, Jennifer Johnson (whose name you will hear later).
There is depth. Quality depth. Maybe not on the level of ranking Mr. Harris desires it to be, but it is there. Ranking is far from the only indicator of how bright your star shines.
What did shock me was this…
South Koreans and other Asian players dominate the LPGA Tour. You’ve got to admire their talent, hard work and devotion to reaching their dreams in the Land of Opportunity. But it sure doesn’t make for compelling TV viewing when we don’t know anything about them and the language barrier keeps us from seeing much of their personalities.
Where to start?
Doesn’t make for compelling TV viewing? Just because an American isn’t contending, that has no effect on the quality of golf being played. Or the drama. Okay, maybe I’m taking that a little out of context here because maybe it is referring to the next point.
We don’t know anything about them? I will once again disagree. Na Yeon Choi has the game to contend in every tournament. Anyone that has watched an LPGA event knows of Yani Tseng. Anyone that has watched an LPGA event knows of Suzann Pettersen (and many will want to know more after her appearance in ESPN The Magazine‘s Body Issue which hit newsstands today). Many know of Jiyai Shin. You will learn about them if you watch. The LPGA cannot force feed you.
The language barrier comment does confound me a bit, too. Can you say Carolyn Bivens? Remember her? She attempted (unsuccessfully) to implement a “program” whereby all the LPGA players that were not fluent in English could face possible suspension and fines. As pointed out in an article on Huffington Post, Stephanie Wei notes that these ladies have private tutors in order to learn English.
Nothing wrong with the ladies learning English, and as Wei also mentions, those that do not know English realize the need and importance of learning the language. They may not be fluent upon their first interview, but we didn’t learn English quickly either now, did we?
Side note here. I don’t hear as many complaints about baseball players not knowing English. We continuously see interviews with baseball players where an interpreter is present. No huge outcry there.
And how can you not see the personalities of these ladies? Watch this…
Honestly. No personality? Feng’s personality grabs you. Toward the end of the video, it captivates you. To see the smile and hear the laughter at her own remarks is actually extremely refreshing.
I’ll add more. Check out this article from Golf World. I wish there was video of the Kelly Tilghman interview which is referred to in the piece. You would see much more of Feng’s personality.
And have you listened to a Yani Tseng interview? Head over here and listen to this one on Golf Channel’s Morning Drive after she won the 2011 Wal-Mart NW Arkansas Championship.
To discount what these ladies have done because they’re not fluent in your native tongue is well, a little narrow-minded. Some suggest that Korean is one of the hardest languages to learn for those that have English as their native language. Could the reverse be assumed? Possibly. Same for Chinese. Hard for those that speak English to learn that language, too.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, so neither will be their vocabulary and speaking skills. As I already said, these ladies are willing to learn. It takes time.
There was also this…
Golf analysts say it’s cyclical, that Americans will bounce back. But I’m not so sure. World No. 1 Yani Tseng and U.S. Open champ Na Yeon Choi will inspire another generation of Asian players to pursue the sport to the highest level. I don’t see anyone on the horizon doing that for American kids.
So 17-year-old Lexi Thompson, the youngest winner in LPGA’s history, is not an inspiration for American girls that wish to pursue golf? Jessica Korda, who won the first LPGA event for 2012, is only 19. Have you forgotten that Michelle Wie is only 22? Vicky Hurst just turned 22. Jennifer Johnson won’t be 22 until next month. I’ll add Morgan Pressel, who is only 24, in this mix. Paula Creamer will be 26 next month. One of the LPGA’s longest hitters is Brittany Lincicome, age 26.
If you feel there is a lack of Americans ladies that can provide inspiration for American girls, you have a total disconnect with the tour, its American players, and, the most important part, the young girls that look up these young ladies.
And maybe the entire point Harris was attempting to make is off the mark. The LPGA is not just for American players and American stars. Having stops in Australia, Thailand, Singapore, Brazil, Canada, France, Malaysia, South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Mexico, Great Britain (for this year’s RICOH Women’s British Open) and the US make the LPGA a global tour.